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Predictive repairs to elevators rolled out worldwide by Thyssenkrupp

Image credit: Thyssenkrupp

The company behind a maintenance solution claimed to be the world's first ever Internet of Things-based predictive service for elevators says it will slash downtime and boost ‘peopleflow’ in cities.

The idea of being stuck inside a broken-down lift halfway up a shaft and between floors is surely the stuff of nightmares for many people, but it could soon be consigned to history thanks to predictive analytics. 

Engineering giant Thyssenkrupp has so far connected 120,000 elevators worldwide to its cloud-enabled ‘predictive maintenance’ platform, allowing repairs to be scheduled proactively before faults ever occur.  

Andreas Schierenbeck, chief executive of Thyssenkrupp Elevator, said that the set-up - known as Max - allows data about the performance of the machines to be collected from sensors in real time and then crunched to calculate the remaining lifespan of key components and estimate when maintenance will be required.

The system is being applied to the German multinational’s cable-hauled lifts as well as escalators.   

Schierenbeck told E&T that he and his colleagues had decided that “in the 21st century... there should be a better way of dealing with this [repairs]” than simply reacting after a fault has occurred by summoning a technician while passengers wait for help. 

“We said, look, why not provide the information coming out of the elevator and send it to the cloud, and use modern technology with machine learning and predictive analytics to do some tests,” he said. “[That will] first of all tell us when an elevator is stopped, and then secondly – and before the customer notices - just automatically tell us what the most probable reasons are for that.

“You can compare the data. You can learn. You can predict things. That’s the first or second phase. In the third phase, when you have learnt enough, you can forecast when an elevator will stop and why - and then, of course, schedule in a service repair before something happens. That’s what we’ve done.”

Thyssenkrupp worked with Microsoft to create what the company says is the world’s first-ever Internet of Things-based predictive service solution for elevators.

As part of a pilot scheme, the company has been collecting data for the project since 2015. Its bosses say they are now confident Max can reduce elevator downtime by 50 per cent.

Elevator faults most commonly involve damage to the doors. “If a lift needs service, you have to block it and then it’s not available anymore,” Schierenbeck said. This slows down movement to and through office buildings, denting productivity and causing untold aggravation, particularly for those unable to use the stairs.

‘Peopleflow’ is the watchword in the elevator industry - and it will become ever more important as populations swell. As E&T reported last year, Thyssenkrupp recently developed a fully ropeless elevator system that it says is less prone to shutdowns and could allow taller skyscrapers to be constructed to accommodate growing cities.

Christened the ‘Multi’, the machine is expected to be unveiled in fully operational mode in 2021. The new breed of lift could potentially have applications on the London Underground, where it could be used as a viable mode of transportation connecting nearby stations.

Schierenbeck acknowledged that the Max system could not anticipate every eventuality that might befall an elevator.  

“We never said we will be able to predict everything that in the future could happen to an elevator,” he explained. “Of course, if somebody is using brute force on an elevator, that cannot be predicted.”

He added: “If you can predict 70 per cent of the call backs because 30 per cent are probably ones you can’t predict, well that’s still enough. It’s better than nothing.”

Schierenbeck said elevator sales are holding up well around the world.

Asked if Brexit would affect Thyssenkrupp’s business in the UK, he replied: “Yes and no. If Brexit is happening - and it depends how - we will probably see less construction in the UK.

“At the moment, of course, everybody is finishing what was started, but I get the impression that not many projects are getting started at the moment.

“But this will definitely affect our market one way or another. If Brexit is coming, probably construction will dim down a little bit. If Brexit isn’t happening, probably then it’s kicking in again because that is a different situation.”

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